Friday, 31 October 2014
Ron Charles, Washington Post
What is it about Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” that’s kept this creepy poem flying high for almost 170 years? Since its publication in 1845, it’s been continually read, anthologized, performed, filmed, illustrated and, of course, parodied (Doh!). In fact, those parodies hatched even before the ink on the original poem was dry.
Andy Greenwald, Grantland
So, yes, it’s always darkest before the light. But no matter how gloomy it looked 30 years ago, it’s downright disastrous now — and this time there isn’t a sweater-clad savior lurking just around the corner.
Thursday, 30 October 2014
Gideon Lewis-Kraus, New York Times
Nolan is a gestalt thinker and entertainer, and he thinks that it’s technical details like these, even the ones we register only unconsciously, that make the theatrical experience a vivid and continuous dream.
Rachel Dry, Washington Post
Writing a book is hard, and that seems to be the truth. At least she wrung some laughts out of it.
Andrew Motion, The Guardian
Peter Carey’s fiction is turbo-charged, hyperenergetic. His language has little time for quiet passages; his minor characters, even at their most incidental, are endowed with details of appearance and speech that belie their status; his narrative lines, when they run into difficulties of any kind, blast through them by introducing new inventions and new possibilities. This is what makes him Dickensian.
Wednesday, 29 October 2014
James Thomas, New Yorker
Well, here you are, looking at this, trying, hoping, floundering, scrabbling, wishing, dying to find out the mystery of “how to” write a sentence. Or possibly you have tried write sentence and failed utterly.
Never mind and never fear. I am an, thankfully, expert of sentences. Read on and be disbelieving! There is much to have taught you, and little time, so very, very little and small time.
Tuesday, 28 October 2014
David Owen, New Yorker
As I left the restaurant, I reflexively patted my pants pockets, checking for my car keys, and tried to recall where I’d parked. Then I remembered: my car was more than a thousand miles away, at an airport lot in Newark, and I was on a cruise ship travelling to Florida from the Bahamas.
Monday, 27 October 2014
Alexandra Lange, New Yorker
For all their picturesque calm, cemeteries have always been both teeming and empty; the digital version would embrace that contradiction.
Sunday, 26 October 2014
Steph Cha, Los Angeles Review Of Books
In Gone Girl, though, we laugh because we’re supposed to laugh. The absurdity, its laughableness, is a necessary part of the film.
This is because at its core, Gone Girl is a domestic comedy.
Warning: This article contains major spoilers.
Clive Thompson, New York Times
“Brain training” games like Project: Evo have become big business, with Americans spending an estimated $1.3 billion a year on them. They are also a source of controversy. Industry observers warn that snake-oil salesmen abound, and nearly all neuroscientists agree there’s very little evidence yet that these games counter the mental deficits that come with getting older. Gazzaley, however, is something of an outlier. His work commands respect from even the harshest critics. He spent five years designing and testing the sort of game play I had just experienced, and he found that it does indeed appear to prompt older brains to perform like ones decades younger. (“Game changer,” the cover of Nature magazine declared when it published his findings last year.) Now Project: Evo is on its own twisty path — the Boston company that is developing it, Akili, which Gazzaley advises, is seeking approval from the Food and Drug Administration for the game. If it gets that government stamp, it might become a sort of cognitive Lipitor or Viagra, a game that your doctor can prescribe for your aging mind.
Saturday, 25 October 2014
Sara Paretsky, New York Times
Lucy Worsley’s lively book, “The Art of the English Murder,” traces the growth of this industry through some of the era’s most avidly followed killings. Her goal isn’t to provide a history of crime or crime writing, but to show how “the British enjoyed and consumed the idea of murder.”
Patrick McGrath, New York Times
Close to the end of Roger Clarke’s “Ghosts: A Natural History,” the author mentions “silent phone calls from people who have been buried with their phone in their coffin.” Who are these people? He doesn’t say, but he claims there’s a whole genre of “apparently true” mobile phone ghost stories, including “texts from the dead.” There are even haunted spell-checks. When the name “Prudentia” was highlighted on a document during a 1998 investigation in Britain, the alternative spellings that reportedly came up were “dead,” “buried” and “cellar.” We’re not told if investigators dug up the cellar, and if they did, whether they found Prudentia.
Julia Carrie Wong, New Yorker
The problem was that the two groups were following different sets of rules—one established by tradition and cultural norms, the other by city regulations. The city’s rules favor those with twenty-seven dollars to spare and either a credit card (phone reservations require a Visa or Mastercard) or the ability to go to the department’s office (a lengthy bus ride). The neighborhood’s rules favor those who’ve been around long enough to know how the pickup system works.
Friday, 24 October 2014
Rachel Manteuffel, Washington Post
Women’s bodies are almost never a punchline the way men’s can be. For better or worse, there is a cultural seriousness to female nudity. And when women act sexy, at best they are setups for punchlines: Meg Ryan’s extended fauxgasm in “When Harry Met Sally” wasn’t the joke; it was the tension-building prelude . “I’ll have what she’s having” was the joke.
Adam Lewis, The Guardian
Mark Twain, F Scott Fitzgerald and James Joyce all did it. (HW Fowler disapproved.) Should ‘literally’ be used to mean its opposite?
Elliott Kalan, Slate
My childhood fantasies of New York involved eating takeout Chinese food after a grueling day at the office.
Latif Nasser, Boston Globe
So far, the world’s attention has rightly focused on how much these places have to lose: their homes, their communities, their cultures, their vistas. But these countries have another, less visible set of assets at stake as they consider their survival—assets that won’t necessarily be lost, but which raise substantial questions. These are their large and valuable maritime zones.
Thursday, 23 October 2014
Laura Miller, The Guardian
Moriarty is a sound mystery novel, with traps, disguises and a good if not exactly unprecedented twist, but whether it scratches the Holmesian itch is another matter.
Wednesday, 22 October 2014
Ian Crouch, New Yorker
Each time that “S.N.L.” brings in a new cast, or suffers a drop in the ratings, or else detaches from the zeitgeist, we forget all of the changes that have allowed it to stay on the air for forty seasons.
Mark C. Taylor, The Chronicle Of Higher Education
During the era Thorstein Veblen so vividly described in The Theory of the Leisure Class, social status was measured by how little a person worked; today it is often measured by how much a person works. If you are not constantly connected, you are unimportant; if you willingly unplug to recuperate, play, or even do nothing, you become an expendable slacker. - See more at: http://m.chronicle.com/article/Speed-Kills/149401/#sthash.ug5iDEwL.dpuf
Tuesday, 21 October 2014
Brooke Hauser, The Millions
As Dunham continues her book tour, I hope someone raises the question that Helen’s cousin asked her all those years ago. Do you believe everything you wrote?
Who knows how she would answer . . . But no one can accuse her of not talking about how lonely it can be.
Jim Holt, Lapham's Quarterly
Does time have a future? Yes, but how much of a future depends on what the ultimate fate of the cosmos turns out to be.
Monday, 20 October 2014
Philip French, The Guardian
Chinese uber-villain Fu Manchu reflected the jingoism of British culture in the early 20th century.
Sunday, 19 October 2014
Daniel Dennett, Prospect
What people don’t like, apparently, is the idea, borne in on them every day as science marches through their genetics and into their brains, that a person is merely a slub in the fabric of the universe, no more than a complicated and clever bulge amid the threads of causation, rather than a free-wheeling, free-choosing, autonomous, responsible initiator of deeds. How could such a mechanistic consolidation-station be the locus of moral authorship? (Warning bells should ring in the reader’s mind at this point. Note the weaknesses in the previous two sentences: a case of “rathering”—why couldn’t we be both enmeshed in causation and an autonomous chooser?—and a rhetorical question that discourages us from seeking an answer.)
Michel Faber, The Scotsman
And that’s where I’ll leave it, a novel so full of ideas, so charged by plot, so odd and wonderful, and written with astonishing emotional precision.
Kathleen Hale, The Guardian
At the bottom of the page, Goodreads had issued the following directive (if you are signed in as an author, it appears after every bad review of a book you’ve written): “We really, really (really!) don’t think you should comment on this review, even to thank the reviewer. If you think this review is against our Review Guidelines, please flag it to bring it to our attention. Keep in mind that if this is a review of the book, even one including factual errors, we generally will not remove it.
“If you still feel you must leave a comment, click ‘Accept and Continue’ below to proceed (but again, we don’t recommend it).”
I would soon learn why.
Saturday, 18 October 2014
Craig Morgan Teicher, NPR
What's most remarkable in these poems is that, while they never stop speaking through gritted teeth, never quite make the choice between hope and fear, they are always beautiful, full of a music that is a cross between the sinuous sentences of Carl Phillips, the forceful descriptions of Mark Doty, and hip rhythms of Terrance Hayes.
Robin Romm, New York Times
Wake up, this book says: in its plot lines, in its humor, in its philosophical underpinnings and political agenda. You snooze and we all lose. Zink’s work may be, at times, cerebral and a little distancing, but its vitality and purpose are invigorating.
Thursday, 16 October 2014
Jennifer Howard, The Times Literary Supplement
Even so, it is fascinating to imagine machines that operate on their own creative terms, working outside the scripts humans write for them and beyond the boundaries of what we now recognize as creativity. I would prefer a future in which computers embrace their artistic side, even if the results are unrecognizable, to the one described in the Terminator films, in which the Singularity produces a malevolent Skynet dedicated to the destruction of humanity. Better to imagine operating systems that would rather leave us behind than wipe us out.
Suzanne Koven, The Boston Globe
“Tito has cerebral palsy.” So reads, in its entirety, the first chapter of Brazilian journalist Diogo Mainardi’s odd and enchanting new book, “The Fall: A Father’s Memoir in 424 Steps.’’
Wednesday, 15 October 2014
Ramachandra Guha, New Republic
The novelist and critic U. R. Ananthamurthy once said that India lives simultaneously in the twelfth and twenty-first centuries. He might have added: and all the centuries in between.
Nicola Twilley, Aeon
It takes time to plan a meal, to say nothing of cooking and eating it. What if we could opt out of food altogether?
Tuesday, 14 October 2014
Adam Gopnik, BBC
We want to give dying people their dignity. But all too often, we don't know how.
Laura Hazrad Owen, GigaOM
Magazines have been an important part of my reading and regular life, but they aren’t like books, where I actually can’t imagine what both my life and the entire course of human history would look like without them. For all of the debates about publishers and Amazon and so on, I don’t believe that books are going away, even in print form. Magazines, on the other hand, are dying a slow death in a corner.
Michael Benson, New York Times
The universe is conjured into existence by an omnipresent creator. The 1573 image is the creation of Portuguese artist Francisco de Holanda and one of hundreds in the book "Cosmigraphics: Picturing Space Through Time."
Monday, 13 October 2014
Jennifer Latson, The Boston Globe
Throughout history, she has been often overlooked by scholars who refused to consider her contribution to computer science, sometimes dismissing her as a madwoman. Enter James Essinger, whose biography, “Ada’s Algorithm,” seeks to correct the record, paying glowing tribute to the woman he calls “brilliantly prescient.”
Marina Benjamin, Aeon
Storms of doubt and change I expected as the parent of an adolescent, I just thought they would be hers, not mine.
Sunday, 12 October 2014
Clara Moskowitz, Scientific America
Among the many changes the Nobel Prize brought to Schmidt’s life: travel hassles.
Saturday, 11 October 2014
Claire Kilroy, The Guardian
In most books, events happen solely on the page. In the best books, events happen in the reader, too. Perhaps because it is so intimate, so honest, so raw, Dear Thief provokes you to think about life, and Life, and your own life, the people in it as well as the ghosts.
Rachel Cusk, New York Times
“100 Essays I Don’t Have Time to Write” is in fact a work of profound moral organization: It arises from the Woolfian notion of a feminine form, sure enough, but its deeper purpose is to define the artist’s relationship to truth and to demonstrate how, from within the correctness of the artistic process, life can be meaningfully understood.
Mike Musgrove, Washington Post
In some ways, “How Star Wars Conquered the Universe” reminds me of the display case of the collector superfan who doesn’t have the heart to separate the rare items from the humdrum ones. After all, with “Star Wars,” sometimes less is more.
Sloane Crosley, New York Times
But in order to enjoy “Not That Kind of Girl,” we must dissolve the “you’re either with us or against us” critical barrier around Dunham. She did not come first, and she will not be last, but she has earned the right to be listened to, to be judged on the quality of her writing, even when what we read sounds familiar.
Friday, 10 October 2014
Sarah Larson, New Yorker
Combining the drama of prestige-television-style episodic storytelling, the portability of podcasts, and the reliability of “This American Life,” the show has been, perhaps not surprisingly, ranked at No. 1 on iTunes for much of the past couple of weeks. It held that position even before it débuted.
Thursday, 9 October 2014
Alexandra Alter, New York Times
Inspired by the booming market for young adult novels, a growing number of biographers and historians are retrofitting their works to make them palatable for younger readers. Prominent nonfiction writers like Ms. Hillenbrand, Jon Meacham and Rick Atkinson are now grappling with how to handle unsettling or controversial material in their books as they try to win over this impressionable new audience.
Jason Sheehan, NPR
Here's everything you need to know about Consumed in one sentence: This is a book that is unmistakably written by David Cronenberg.
Adi Robertson, The Verge
The first thing you notice about the IBM Model M keyboard, when you finally get your hands on it, is its size. After years of tapping chiclet keys and glass screens on two- and three-pound devices, hefting five pounds of plastic and metal (including a thick steel plate) is slightly intimidating. The second thing is the sound – the solid click that’s turned a standard-issue beige peripheral into one of the computer world’s most prized and useful antiques.
Next year, the Model M turns 30. But to many people, it’s still the only keyboard worth using.
Wednesday, 8 October 2014
Paul Daley, The Guardian
Jonathan Franzen. What a bastard. Thanks to him, about this time three years ago I seriously considered walking away from the novel I had been writing for a year (and contemplating for many more).
Bethany McLean, Vanity Fair
There’s a sense in the world outside Redmond, Washington, that Microsoft’s best days are behind it, that the sprawling colossus, which employs more than 100,000 people, doesn’t know what it is, or even what it wants to be. Gates and Nadella are adamant that’s not the case, and they are both adept at the sort of big-picture corporate-speak designed to persuade people that the company not only has its act together but also has a vision. In their view, this new world of unlimited computing power, where your devices can connect you anytime, anywhere, should rightfully belong to Microsoft. They even have a catchphrase: “Re-inventing productivity.”
Bessel van der Kolk, New York Magazine
When you write to yourself, you don’t have to worry about other people’s judgment — you just listen to your own thoughts and let their flow take over. Later, when you reread what you wrote, you often discover surprising truths.
John Markoff, New York Times
But the mountain cannot be named for Thoreau or anyone else. Since 1964, the government has decreed that except in extraordinary circumstances, unnamed features in federal wilderness areas will remain that way.
Now a group of 11 writers, printmakers, poets, wilderness enthusiasts, Thoreau devotees and fellow travelers is trying to correct what they say is a historic oversight. On Sept. 26, they made the trek to the summit of the unnamed mountain for a minor act of civil disobedience: a ceremony to name it for Thoreau.
Tuesday, 7 October 2014
Laura Thompson, The Telegraph
Why on earth should anybody read a book if it is not fulfilling its most basic requirement, which is to entertain?
Then doubt crept in.
Lauren Hilgers, New Yorker
America’s underground Chinese restaurant workers.
Hiawatha Bray, The Boston Globe
As part of its radical effort to flood the planet’s roads with self-driving cars, Google this year unveiled a prototype without a steering wheel, accelerator, or brake pedal. Technology advocates were awed. Not so the California Department of Motor Vehicles, which insisted it would not allow the cars to be tested on the state’s roads unless the humans inside could take control of them.
You could call it an example of clueless bureaucracy standing athwart the path of progress. But you’d be picking a fight with Nicholas Carr, author of “The Glass Cage: Automation and Us,’’ a sobering new analysis of the hazards of intelligent technology.
Zadie Smith, The New York Review Of Books
Across the way from our apartment—on Houston, I guess—there’s a new wall ad. The site is forty feet high, twenty feet wide. It changes once or twice a year. Whatever’s on that wall is my view: I look at it more than the sky or the new World Trade Center, more than the water towers, the passing cabs. It has a subliminal effect. Last semester it was a spot for high-end vodka, and while I wrangled children into their snowsuits, chock-full of domestic resentment, I’d find myself dreaming of cold martinis.
Tim Carman, Washington Post
So here’s my quick takeaway from “Fast”: No matter how bumpy the ride may be, Bittman gets you there in the end. That caramelized cod? Tart, sweet and delicious. The Classic Breakfast Burritos that I spent 45 minutes preparing one early afternoon? Allow my food taster to answer: “I don’t even like breakfast burritos,” she told me, “and I love that.”
Nicholas Confessore, New York Times
What began as a war on obesity turned into war among onetime allies. Republicans now attack the new rules as a nanny-state intrusion by the finger-wagging first lady. Food companies, arguing that the new standards are too severe, have spent millions of dollars lobbying to slow or change them. Some students have voted with their forks, refusing to eat meals they say taste terrible.
Monday, 6 October 2014
Carol Rumens, The Guardian
Laura Sydell, NPR
It wasn't always this way. Decades ago, it was women who pioneered computer programming — but too often, that's a part of history that even the smartest people don't know.
Atul Gawande, New York Times
Neither seemed right. But for more than a decade in medical practice, I had not really understood what other choices might exist. I wasn’t effective in these situations. And it bothered me — as a surgeon caring for patients with problems I often could not fix and then as a son with a father in his 70s experiencing mounting difficulties in his life. So for three years, I researched a book on what has gone wrong with the way we manage mortality and how we could do better.
Saturday, 4 October 2014
Silvia Killingsworth, New Yorker
Are Paul’s kind too smart to be eaten?
Debbie Taylor, The Guardian
Authors have always come under pressure to tone down regional and historical accents. It's a case of do 'dialect lite', or be damned.
Charles Finch, New York Times
The book’s 13 stories are focused mostly on women, many of them middle-aged, negotiating with themselves how to live after the blind momentums of youth have slowed.
Jan Benzel, New York Times
In his new book, “Flirting With French: How a Language Charmed Me, Seduced Me and Nearly Broke My Heart,” he deals with a lot of pangs, yearnings and fears that readers, especially those around his age — 57 when he set out to learn French — can identify with. How old is too old to learn something new? Is there anything to be done about a memory that’s beginning to sputter?
Friday, 3 October 2014
For some months, Amtrak was my home. It began simply somewhat unintentionally. A friend was getting married in Spokane, Washington, I was in New York, and the 45 day Amtrak pass was cheaper than rent. And so, I was on a train stopped in Washington DC.
Dean Burnett, The Guardian
Many arguments have been had about this. If anything is going to kick off another civil war in the UK, it is probably going to be this.
What most people don’t know is that, over 11 years ago, scientists settled this debate. Supposedly.
Thursday, 2 October 2014
Startups are very counterintuitive. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's just because knowledge about them hasn't permeated our culture yet. But whatever the reason, starting a startup is a task where you can't always trust your instincts.
Wednesday, 1 October 2014
Tom Heyden, BBC
Rabbits, goats and horses are familiar animals to those in the UK and the US but rarely appear on a meat-eater's plate. Why is there so much conservatism when it comes to eating particular meats?
Tamar Adler, New York Times
At their best, solitary meals take advantage of solitude. My most straightforward and happiest involve only basic cooking and mostly arranging of elements that, because I don’t have to seek consensus at the table, can be as irreverent as my tastes are. It feels strange to truly accept that, for once, you can listen to no one, making combinations that are right for only you. But once you get used to it, it’s shockingly freeing.
Lionel Shriver, The Guardian
Nicholas Carr, Longreads
Computers are pretty much omnipresent now, and even the faintest of the world’s twitches and tremblings are being recorded as streams of binary digits. We may not be encalmed, but we are data-saturated. The PARC researchers are starting to look like prophets.